Kalou rides to rescue and frustrates dominant Everton

Everton 1 Chelsea 1
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Louis Saha should know by now that scoring against Chelsea and beating Chelsea are two entirely different things. When he ran back in pink boots, blue shirt and hair dyed bronze after heading home Leighton Baines' corner, it was his fifth goal in as many appearances against Chelsea and only one of those games had been won. This should have been.

Everyone agreed on the turning point. There were 18 seconds separating Michael Essien's desperate lunge to block Seamus Coleman's shot with the goal gaping in front of him and the soft swish of the ball striking Tim Howard's net.

Chelsea had performed haltingly and but for Petr Cech, who had instinctively parried Coleman's initial header before Essien intervened and later tipped over a drive from Jermaine Beckford, their chances of a third successive FA Cup would have been dashed beneath the Gwladys End.

This was the 26th game Chelsea have played in the competition since they were overcome by Liverpool in the 2006 semi-final at Old Trafford and only one of those, at Barnsley nearly three years ago, had been lost. They needed luck and resilience to survive here and got both. Had Ramires' shot not struck the foot of the post, they might even have repeated the scoreline in the 2009 final when Saha's goal in the opening minute suggested a script that was never followed

"That one tackle from Michael Essien has saved the game for them," Everton's captain, Phil Neville, reflected. "If that goes in, we are through to the next round. Then they counter-attack and score in a game in which we have dominated possession. We are very, very disappointed. We have shown again we are a good team but we have to produce it again in the replay at Stamford Bridge and it will be a hell of a task. We just have to remember that a couple of years ago we drew with Liverpool and won the replay."

Everton's record in this corner of London is a highly creditable one – their last five League matches at Stamford Bridge have been drawn – but it was 1994 when they last won there. Saha commented: "We are fed up with playing well and it is time to start winning games. We have not got our rewards and once more it is a bitter shame."

Everton's domination after a flat and insipid 45 minutes began after the interval when David Moyes reminded his players that the low winter sun would now be shining directly into Chelsea eyes. It might explain why when Leighton Baines delivered a high corner, John Terry appeared to lose the ball and his marker, allowing Saha to make the breakthrough.

Later another set-piece, by Mikel Arteta, was aimed at the big hair of Marouane Fellaini and Cech, who has at times been found wanting when a ball comes out of the floodlights, was again at the peak of his game.

Nevertheless, Chelsea looked sluggish in the midday frost. They appeared what they are; an ageing side in need of new blood with only one header from their 30-year-old captain across the top of Howard's net to show for their efforts.

Chelsea looked lost without actually losing, epitomised by the waves of Didier Drogba's arms and the shrugs of his shoulders, although Moyes wondered aloud whether the Ivorian's pass that led to Salomon Kalou's shot that appeared too soft to result in a goal, was intended for Ramires. Nevertheless, Kalou's aim was so beautifully directed that its pace scarcely mattered.

However, new blood is required and in the shape of Fernando Torres it appears to be coming. Chelsea's fans acted as if Torres had already arrived, singing the song with which the Kop has hymned him for several seasons now. Meanwhile, his posters were being taken down from bedroom walls all over Merseyside.

Attendance: 28,376

Referee: Howard Webb

Man of the match: Coleman

Comments